Coastal Fishing Communities Project

Overview and Definition

Project Overview

The Coastal Fishing Communities Project is a California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) initiative being pursued through the Commission’s Marine Resources Committee (MRC). This project began in 2016 after an initial statewide meeting was held by commission staff to explore the concerns and needs of fishing communities, particularly as fisheries resources were being impacted by climate and ocean conditions.

In the statewide meeting, participants urged the state to more directly recognize coastal fishing community goals, and the impact that different options for pursuing conservation and utilization goals in fisheries management decisions may have on those communities.

Definition of Coastal Fishing Community

But what is a coastal fishing community in this context? Federal law defines “fishing community” for purposes of federal fisheries management. But what about the state-managed fisheries context within which the Commission operates? While no formal definition exists in State law, the MRC defines a coastal fishing community as:

“…a social, cultural, economic, and/or place-based group whose members are fishermen dependent upon or engaged in commercial, recreational, or subsistence fishing to meet the social or economic needs of the community; this includes, but is not limited to, businesses and organizations that depend on or support fishing by providing goods and services, including infrastructure.”

MRC's definition goes on to note that a fishing community:

“…may be a subset or member of larger or associated coastal communities which have an interest in and/or are dependent on healthy ocean ecosystems.”

Developed in 2019 by stakeholders in a process facilitated by Commission staff, it was adopted by MRC as a working definition for purposes of the Coastal Fishing Communities Project.


The initial statewide meeting held in 2016 revealed the value in expanding the Commission discussions on this topic to consider more localized needs. The Commission directed staff to broaden the conversation to receive public input at a local/port-level scale on issues of concern and areas in which the Commission can play a role to foster greater stability and long-term resilience through its decision making. Seven locally-focused coastal fishing community meetings were held from June 2017 through June 2018 to more thoroughly explore current conditions and changes experienced in different ports, constraints on adaptation, and needs for creating future resilience.

During this series of discussions between stakeholders and the Commissions’ MRC, stakeholders repeatedly highlighted concerns about impacts from unprecedented changes in the marine environment on the ability of coastal communities to rely on an ocean-based economy. Some broad topics of concern were:

  • Fisheries management changes, complex regulations, and access
  • Changing climate and ocean conditions and environmental impacts on fisheries
  • Loss or decline of historic fisheries
  • Potential flexibility to tailor fishing opportunities to port-specific conditions
  • Deteriorating infrastructure due to increased variability in landings
  • Difficulty retaining local markets
  • Permit availability and costs
  • Recruitment of new/young fishermen
  • Data gaps in fishery management limiting new opportunities
  • Competing uses

Commission staff compiled a report synthesizing key themes heard at the meetings as well as concerns unique to specific fishing communities. After an extensive MRC discussion and opportunities for public review, the Commission approved an MRC recommendation to adopt the Staff Synthesis Report on California Coastal Fishing Communities Meetings (staff synthesis report) as final December 2019. This report included ten staff recommendations as “initial concepts for potential development,” herein referred to as “staff recommendations” or by acronym as “SRs”. The first action taken on those staff recommendations was a stakeholder workshop to develop the working definition described above, also adopted in 2019.

Project Phases

This progression of this project is organized into 3 phases:

Phase 1: Initial Coastal Fishing Communities meetings (2016-2018)

Phase 2: Staff recommendations development and analysis (2019-2021)

Phase 3: Commission action and implementation (2021-Current)

Phase 1: Public Meetings (2016-2018)

In July 2016, the Commission held an in-depth coastal fishing communities meeting. Open to all interested parties, the meeting was designed to expand initial conversations on the issues facing California’s coastal fishing communities, to provide an opportunity for increased dialogue between stakeholders, and to identify common needs, concerns, and priorities to help inform future commission action.

Subsequently, commission staff hosted seven additional coastal fishing communities meetings from June 2017 to July 2018 in Smith River, Atascadero, Ventura, Monterey, San Diego, El Granada/Half Moon Bay, and Fort Bragg. The meetings offered an opportunity to build on the previously identified statewide issues by adding site-specific perspectives and drawing directly from the experience and expertise of community members to help generate ideas and potential pathways forward for their communities and the state to help create more resilient coastal fishing communities.

Public meeting materials can be viewed below.

Date/Location Resources
July 20, 2016
Petaluma, CA
Coastwide Meeting Announcement (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Agenda (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Summary (PDF)(opens in new tab)
June 21, 2017
Smith River, CA
Regional Meeting Flyer (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Agenda (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Summary (PDF)(opens in new tab)
October 11, 2017
Atascadero, CA
Regional Meeting Flyer (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Agenda (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Summary (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Video(opens in new tab)
October 18, 2017
Ventura, CA
Regional Meeting Flyer (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Agenda (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Summary (PDF)(opens in new tab)
November 18, 2017
Monterey, CA
Regional Meeting Flyer (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Agenda (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Summary (PDF)(opens in new tab)
December 5, 2017
San Diego, CA
Regional Meeting Flyer (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Agenda (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Summary (PDF)(opens in new tab)
June 1, 2018
El Granada, CA
Regional Meeting Flyer (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Agenda (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Summary (PDF)(opens in new tab)
June 27, 2018
Fort Bragg, CA
Regional Meeting Flyer (PDF)(opens in new tab)
Agenda (PDF)(opens in new tab)

Phase 2: Staff Recommendations Analysis (2019-2022)

To further prioritize information-gathering to inform SRs to the Commission, the MRC requested an in-depth analysis of each recommendation. The SRs are limited to areas where the Commission could play a role or has authority to take direct action.

Update on Efforts Related to Initial Staff Recommendations (Update report)

In 2020, staff drafted reports providing updates on efforts related to each initial SR to inform future Commission action. An overview of the update reports on all 10 recommendations was presented to the MRC at its November 10, 2020 MRC meeting. Each update report includes the original text of the SR with an overview, a summary of progress to date, potential next steps, and any linkages to other SRs. Where applicable, each summary of progress is divided into four focal areas: Commission and Department Initiatives; Collaborations and Partner Efforts; Relevant External Actions and Models; and Education and Outreach.


In-depth reports are currently in development for each recommendation. Each SR is being evaluated using a draft standardized analytical approach. This approach focuses evaluation around four categories: I. Basic informational needs; II. Current regulatory and policy context; III. Potential Commission role; and IV. Costs and benefits.

The table below provides links to each SR update report and analysis document along with information on the date it was presented to MRC and the status of each SR analysis.

Staff Recommendation (SR) Resource with Date Presented to MRC
SR 1: Develop and adopt a policy and definition for coastal fishing communities/td> Update Report (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis (PDF)(opens in new tab) March 16, 2021
SR 2: Review the Commission’s policy on restricted access commercial fisheries Update Report (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis In progress
SR 3: Approve specific, small-scale projects to test and evaluate proposed new approaches Update Report (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis (PDF)(opens in new tab) March 16, 2021
SR 4: Engage legislative staff to pursue adjustments to laws as ideas are refined, if warranted to support fishing community adaptability Update Report (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis (PDF)(opens in new tab) March 16, 2021
SR 5: Direct staff to increase engagement and coordination with sister agencies, when feasible, on management decision affecting California coastal communities Update Report (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis (PDF)(opens in new tab) March 16, 2021
SR 6: Explore pathways for authorizing community-based adaptable fishery structures (e.g., community permit banks or risk pools) Update Report (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis in progress
SR 7: Explore filling data needs through collaborative research and data collection Update Report (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis in progress
SR 8: Survey communities, commercial and recreational fishers, and processors about their priorities for Commission focus Update Report (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis (PDF)(opens in new tab) March 16, 2021
SR 9: Explore a model of “fishing community sustainability plans” (CSPs) and possible development of a state fisheries-based module to add to existing CSPs Update Report (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis in progress
SR 10: Continue to develop and understanding of climate change impacts on fisheries and fishing communities Update Repot (PDF)(opens in new tab) November 10, 2020
Analysis in progress

Phase 3: Commission Action and Implementation (2021-Current)

Following an in-depth analysis of each staff recommendation under Phase 2, Commissioners guide Commission staff by selecting staff recommendation(s) upon which it wishes to act, and which should be implemented first. Each staff recommendation is unique and requires working with various partners, agencies, and stakeholders to effectively develop and implement them. Some staff recommendations will require more time and partnerships than others. Any staff recommendation endorsed by the Commission will be pursued as its own project and highlighted below.

Commission Policy on Coastal Fishing Communities project (development underway, 2021-2022)

In April 2021, the Commission selected to act on Staff Recommendation 1: Develop and adopt a policy and definition for coastal fishing communities, based on recommendation from the MRC. The Commission directed staff to begin developing a policy through stakeholder engagement.

Regional Roundtables (September – October 2021)

Commission staff led six regionally-based stakeholder roundtables in the Fall of 2021 to gain insightful input from invited coastal fishing community leaders in each region, including fishermen, processors, fishing association representatives, and harbor masters. The regional roundtables helped develop a series of draft policy goals and concepts. Staff presented the outcomes of these workshops to the MRC in November 2021 and received guidance from the Committee co-chairs to use the draft policy goals, concepts, and key elements presented and discussed to structure a public policy-drafting workshop.

Policy-Drafting Public Workshop (February 23, 2022)

Consistent with MRC direction, Commission staff hosted a public policy-drafting workshop on February 23, 2022. Staff relied on MRC feedback regarding the presented draft policy goals, concepts, and key elements to develop materials to support the workshop. Specifically, staff developed an initial draft policy as a springboard for exploring ideas and input during the workshop. Participants had access to background documents and in-meeting materials before the start of the workshop (see links below).

At the workshop, participants had the opportunity to review and provide input on each aspect of the staff initial draft policy. The initial draft will be revised based on feedback in preparation for a second workshop.

A summary of the workshop is available in the link below:

Outcomes were presented at the MRC meeting on March 24, 2022 for discussion and direction on potential next steps. During the MRC meeting, Committee co-chairs approved the next steps to integrate revisions to the initial draft policy language where possible, distribute workshop outcomes to the participants, and develop and facilitate a second workshop.

Second Policy-Drafting Public Workshop (June 22, 2022)

Currently, staff are revising the initial draft policy and planning a second workshop for June 22, 2022 from 3:00-5:30 p.m.

Get Involved!

There are many opportunities to help shape a draft policy for potential Commission adoption. Please contact staff through:

Image of boy fishing from pier